South Asia and Beyond

“Interim Consensus For Pakistan PM Is Shehbaz Sharif, But Army Moving In Is A Real Possibility”

NEW DELHI: An Excerpt from ‘The Gist‘, with Sushant Sareen, Senior Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation in conversation with StratNews Global Associate Editor Amitabh P. Revi.

Watch the full conversation here:


APR: Who’s going to replace Imran Khan? Is Shehbaz the safest choice since he hasn’t really stepped on the army shoes so much?

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SS: I think the consensus for now, at least in the interim, is Shehbaz Sharif. Because, they have the numbers, number one, because they are the second largest party right now in the Pakistani parliament with about 80-85 seats. So, the claim for the prime ministership is of course going to be PML-N. They were not very interested to start with, but they have reconciled to the fact that they need to take the office. Even the other opposition parties have agreed to it. Look, they’ve all got together for a very simple reason. It’s in the interest of their own self preservation. If you really want to be charitable, you can say they want to protect Pakistan from Imran Khan. But politicians often act only in their own self interest and their own self interest tells them that it is best to get rid of Imran Khan because, one, Imran Khan was an extremely vindictive and vicious man. And he was planning to do certain things to absolutely eliminate all opposition to his rule. Because that served his megalomania. He doesn’t brook any opposition, which is what all nazis and fascists do. So, one was that factor, that they wanted to get rid of the guy and their interests converged. And until the next election, they will probably go into the next elections fighting against each other, which is perfectly fine. As of now, they’ve all got united on this one single point agenda that they need to see the back of Imran Khan. They need to recover the political space from him and they need to prevent Imran Khan from playing politics within the Army, bringing in the former ISI chief as the next army chief. Bringing probably that foul-mouthed Asif Ghafoor, who was hankering for the post of the ISI chief. Get him as the ISI chief. So that he has Faiz Hameed as army chief, some guy like Gafoor as the ISI chief and then he has no opposition. So, they were trying to protect their own political turf, their own political future and of course, their own personal interests and political interests. So that’s a good enough reason for all of them to coalesce together and make a common front against someone like Imran Khan,

APR: Does constitutionality and the rule of law really have any meaning in Pakistan. Isn’t anything better than another political assassination or a military takeover?

SS: You know, I love questions, which answer themselves and I love questioners who already know the answers to the questions and he is right. What happened? You know, it was inconceivable also for many Pakistanis, that the Constitution and something which is very clearly written in the Constitution could be violated so flagrantly, and so brazenly and so shamelessly. A lot of us, who watch Pakistan very closely, a lot of us expected that they’ll try and do something, maybe create a ruckus in the house, then the’ll be bedlam and then postpone the meeting, something which is not exactly is the best parliamentary tradition, but not something unheard of. What they did was completely bizarre and obviously, it was all according to a plot. It wasn’t that suddenly Fawad Chaudhry got up and then the Deputy Speaker got an epiphany and he was so brilliant that within 10 seconds, he put down three pages of an order and passed it and that also in the name of the speaker who was not there. A speaker who apparently has issued the order but could not because there was already a no-confidence motion moved against that guy. So, it’s a theater of the absurd and it’s completely bizarre. But, the way things are headed and frankly, Amitabh, I didn’t think it would be possible, but increasingly, I’m getting the feeling that what I said in the introduction that the way things are going south so fast and there doesn’t seem to be any government. Look, even if suppose a government comes in, you restore the assemblies and Shehbaz Sharif becomes prime minister or you get in a caretaker. This Gulzar is a complete clown. But, you make him the prime minister for the next two, two and a half months. What is he going to run? He doesn’t know anything about anything. You look at his judgments. They’re bizarre. So you get somebody like that, who has no administrative experience? At a time when your economy is collapsing. Your foreign relations are terrible. You have a very, very uncertain situation on your western borders. Your eastern borders with India, everybody knows what the relationship is. You’re literally staring at an apocalyptic scenario. Now, what does the army do? Does it say fine, I’m going to keep a hands off approach. The Constitution is supreme, and all of that, or does the army say look, sorry, we need to step in now. It’s just enough of this shit show that has happened. And we just need to move in. I did not think, I’ll be very honest with you. I did not think this would happen even until Monday when the courts sat down and heard the petition. The suo moto notice actually, but I didn’t think this is going to go down. But now that Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, three days have gone. And the court is looking at what is very, very apparent, very clearly an open and shut case of gross violation of the Constitution. And the court is doing its own hair splitting. Even the bench which is made by the current Chief Justice inspires absolutely no confidence. So in these circumstances, I sense that they would be the 111th brigade, perhaps moving in, in the not too distant future. I wouldn’t rule out that possibility and I think it’s a very, very real possibility going forward.